Morneau will be no picnic for Romero

Ricky Romero. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)

Ricky Romero. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:50 PM ET

The good news is that Ricky Romero says he's not scared.

The bad news is he has every right to be scared.

The Blue Jays' schedule the first month of the season is like a walk through baseball's version of Death Valley. And, it starts this weekend with a season-opening series against the Minnesota Twins.

The Central Division champions didn't make many changes but the return of former MVP Justin Morneau and a revamped middle infield may make them stronger than the 2010 version.

Romero gets the start Friday night in the sold out home opener against Carl Pavano. "They're a very tough lineup. They were in the playoffs last year and it's basically the same guys like Joe Mauer. You've got to exe-cute your pitches well against them. I'm looking forward to the battle,"

Romero, starting his first home opener, said.

"When those lights go on that's what I've been waiting for all my life ... I'm not scared."

The Twins middle infield is younger and more athletic with Alexi Casilla at shortstop and Tsuyoshi Nishioka at second base. Nishioka hit .346 in a Japanese league last season and has had a nice spring. Casilla hit .276 with the Twins last year replacing J.J. Hardy is now the starting shortstop for Baltimore.

Morneau is expected to return to the lineup after being sideline most of last year with a concussion. When Morneau got hurt, he was batting .345 with a team-high 18 home runs, 56 RBIs and an MLB-best .437 slugging percentage.

Joe Nathan, recuperating from Tommy John surgery, and Matt Capps give them a twin-headed closer combo.

For the Jays, it is a sign of the difficulties they will have to overcome in the season's first month -- 27 games during which they will play the Yankees, Boston, Texas and Tampa, plus face a west coast trip. As starters go, this is will be no picnic.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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